What Does Today’s Specialty Food Consumer Prioritize?

Convenience and budget concerns remain important for all grocery shoppers
Emily Crowe
Multimedia Editor
Emily Crowe profile picture
Today's Specialty Food consumer
The specialty food industry is currently worth $194 billion.

When it comes to trends in purchasing specialty food products, today’s consumers are treating them much like traditional grocery items – prioritizing convenience, environmentally friendly companies, prepared meals and more. The Specialty Food Association (SFA) surveyed 1,630 adults to learn more about the latest consumer attitudes toward, and opinions about, specialty food and beverages, which make up a $194 billion industry. 

Highlights of the research include:

  • Convenience and the in-store experience: Growing shopping behaviors since 2020 include grab-and-go items, free samples, in-store cafes and ease of ordering online, proving the consumer demand for convenience at the store level. More online shopping destinations, growth in home meal delivery and wider deployment of just-walk-out payment technology are more important than ever.

  • Budget concerns and online shopping: In-store shopping hasn’t yet returned to pre-pandemic levels and online sales aren’t as positive as expected, proving that tight budgets have had an effect on shoppers. People who never had groceries delivered rose from 41% to 45%, and those who never used click-and-collect rose from 47% to 51%.

  • Blurring delivery channels: DoorDash, UberEats and GrubHub offer primarily foodservice delivery, but their recent penetration continues to make them formidable competitors to grocery delivery services.

  • Environmentally driven purchases: Interest in environmental-based purchasing is being driven by Gen Z and Millennials, with the biggest movers being all-natural and plant-based.

  • Purchased and prepared meal usage. Increasingly, Boomers prepare meals while Millennials purchase them, which makes convenience a youth-driven trend. 

  • Foodservice rebounds. Restaurants are generally competing well with grocery following the pandemic, with those spending more at restaurants on the rise. This seems related to very strong leisure travel that will exceed 2019 levels, displaying pent-up travel and entertainment demands following a lengthy pandemic, despite a much higher cost of travel.

"The big takeaway is that specialty food has produced consistent growth every year through good (economic stability) and bad (pandemic, high inflation),” said Denise Purcell, SFA VP, resource development. “People care about their food choices, younger generations are increasingly engaged consumers, and share of grocery spending that goes to specialty food rises every year.”

More Grocery Business News